Business email etiquette: what is it and why is it important?
Every professional should follow a set of rules when it comes to sending and receiving emails. These principles are called business email etiquette and include the guidelines regarding:
- Greetings and farewells
- Appropriate language and communication manners
- Spelling and grammar rules
- Specific instructions concerning communication with representatives of other cultures
Writing emails effectively is a skill that all business leaders and their employees must learn to help their companies thrive and develop. A well-crafted letter brings many benefits:
- Improve brand reputation
- Establish good relationships built on trust and respect
- Represent a sender in a positive way
- Establish professionalism and increase productivity
- Enhance communication effectiveness
- Prevent a company from getting into trouble
What is a basic rule of email etiquette? There is no universal principle, learning which you’ll become an expert in writing emails. But we compiled a list of the top 10 rules to look out for when you're at work.
The golden rules of business email etiquette for professionals
1. Think over a subject line
A subject line is a tiny text right after the name of a sender. Despite being short, it’s huge in its importance. With tons of emails in our inboxes, it’s so easy to miss a letter due to its plain title. So to make sure a reader will open your letter, create clear and catchy subject lines. Follow these rules:
- It should describe the content of your message briefly and at the same time draw the audience's attention.
- It shouldn’t contain vague and provocative words, caps, exclamations and highly promotional language to not be sent to the spam folder.
- Always fill in this field, because not doing so guarantees that the reader will skip it or move to the trash.
2. Keep each text brief and to the point
Busy people don’t have time to read long messages. That’s why try to put all the significant information at the beginning, enumerate other points in the body, and end with a strong call to action. Don’t be wordy, use short sentences, and stick to the main point. If after rereading the text it seems you’ve said not enough, it’s better to use other channels to communicate with this person.
3. Remember about carbon copy and blind carbon copy difference
If you don’t know the answers to the questions “What does a carbon copy (CC) stand for?”, and “What is the difference between CC and BCC (blind carbon copy) in an email?”, this means you don’t use email fields properly. We’ve prepared a short guide to help you get your bearings:
- CC: use it when you send an email to multiple recipients who know each other. It’s useful for coworkers or members of a certain department. Remember that everyone can see others’ names and electronic addresses, so apply this option carefully.
- BCC: it’s appropriate for a group of people who are not familiar with each other. This option is more privacy-concerned and suitable when you don’t want the recipients to see others’ contact information.
Keep these abbreviations in mind and when someone asks you “What is a blind carbon copy in an email?” or requests to add receivers via BCC, you’ll know what to do.
4. Stick to the appropriate level of formality
Formal correspondence requires us to use specific vocabulary. And this concerns not only the greeting and farewell but also the overall tone of your letter. Take a look at some good examples of formal words and phrases to follow business email etiquette:
- How to start a professional email: “Dear …”, “Mr./Ms./Mrs.”, “Hello …”, “To whom it may concern”
- Words to use in the main part: “please”, “thank you”, “as you may know”
- How to finish: “Best/kind regards”, “Yours sincerely”, “Looking forward to your reply”
5. Double-check each text
Never send a letter without looking through it a couple of times. It’s better to leave it for 5-10 minutes and then reread it once again. Moreover, there are numerous online spelling and grammar checkers, which can help you find some minor mistakes. Also, you can send a letter to a coworker for proofreading it with fresh eyes.
6. Be careful with humor
Humor can be different. It may be a friendly companion or the greatest enemy.
Humor is suitable only for conversations with more or less familiar people, with whom you’ve already talked several times and can predict their reactions. It’d be better to leave it out of emails to unknown recipients, because a thing you find funny may not sound like that to someone else. But the most dangerous thing is sarcasm. Never use it, because other people may interpret your words literally.
7. Remember about cultural differences
When communicating with people of the same cultural background as yours, we don’t have to think about the words we use. But communication with other cultures requires better preparation. So before writing a text, learn basic information about communication with representatives of other countries, especially the peculiarities of business etiquette.
Sometimes, an ordinary phrase in your language or an emoji used inappropriately may lead to a serious conflict.
8. Keep to a proper format for email
Business correspondence should follow a certain structure to let your audience easily understand what you want from them and not to wonder what’s the point of this letter. The basic structure is:
- A subject line
- Main part
- Signature and contacts
A coherent email should consist of no more than three paragraphs. Doing so will increase the chances of your letter being read till the end.
9. Always reply and do this as quickly as possible
It may be difficult to answer all the emails you receive, but you should try to. Remember that someone may be waiting for your reply. Your answer shouldn’t always have to be as long as the initial letter, as even a few words will be enough for senders. If there’s no time to reply, just make them know you’ve received the message and are going to return to it later.
10. Add a professional signature block
Don’t send your message without a proper closing. Keep to the formatting of a business email: add a polite goodbye, your full name, signature, company, and contact information. This will help your audience to understand who you are, where you work, and how to contact you if they need it. Furthermore, a personal signature looks professional and proves your reliability.
Despite the growing popularity of instant messaging and services for online meetings, like Whoosh or Zoom, email keeps being one of the most popular and reliable ways to stay in contact with other people.
That’s why knowing how to write an email for a business partner or a customer along with knowing how to send professional emails applying business etiquette norms is crucial for any company that wants to become successful in the extremely competitive market.